Made in India
by Megan Connolly*
Made in India, a film by Patricia Plattner, describes a grassroots story with interviews of the six founding members of the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA).
The film describes how Indian women face discriminating laws and customs, insufficient access to credit, lack of social benefits, inadequate health and child care, and a lack of education and training.
SEWA was founded on the principle that women needed organizing- instead of depending on welfare- in order to live. Their objectives are just the opposite of the discrimination Indian women face; they seek to give women employment, income, child and health care, ownership, nutritious food and an education.
Founded in Ahmedabad, a downtrodden Indian town on the edge of the Gujarat Desert, SEWA was essentially created to give women a chance to become independent. The organization successfully developed a cooperative bank, which now supports over 60,000 women. These women collectively decide who receives loans from the bank by considering when the members are getting married, who is sick, etc., and plan the loans accordingly.
The money the members make come from jobs that SEWA offers; jobs that are essential to sustaining the community. Some women are the ‘health sisters’, those who collect recyclables and cash them in for money. Other women work for environmental restoration planting 100,000 seeds annually, creating tree cover. Other women work as vegetable vendors, embroiderers, or gum collectors.
SEWA has also successfully created a university, teaching women about economics, leadership, self-esteem, how to introduce themselves, how to organize, and Gandhian philosophy.
Women are often times met by opposition from their husbands, but because SEWA offers an economic benefit, the husbands often times become supportive.
Made in India offers a look into the power of grassroots organizations. To the SEWA women, the movement is a declaration of independence.
*Megan Connolly is a Moraine Valley student, who writes a regular column, “In the LRC,” for the student newspaper The Glacier. In this column, Ms. Connolly reviews and highlights new additions to the library’s collection. This article has been reprinted with permission.